There are many different ways to give life and colour to your drawings or paintings, and one of them is with the help of coloured art pencils. They are a very versatile medium, and a good art pencil can make a huge difference in your artwork, regardless of whether you are a beginner or an experienced artist, a hobbyist or a professional artist, or even if you just need them for your colouring book.
Types of Art Pencils
Art pencils come in a wide range of options, from graphite or charcoal, all the way to coloured pencils or pastel pencils, they offer artists incredible control for details. Most artists can benefit from a high-quality professional art pencil, even if it’s not their preferred medium, and even if it’s just a sketching pencil.
But, with so many different types of art pencils how do you know which one is good and which one is perfect for you? The simple answer is that there isn’t one pencil that’s better than the others, but rather different pencils are suitable for different types of art. Professional artist pencils come in different grades and most artists who use them have more than one type.
Probably the most common type of coloured pencils, wax-based pencils come in different consistencies, and professionals use the softer varieties. They are fairly easy to find in different sets, which means that you can easily find one that suits your requirements, regardless of how experienced you are – finding the perfect price, consistency and quality for your needs.
The wax provides a smooth texture that helps you spread the pigment, and it’s also the component of the pencil that adheres to the surface, or to other layers of pencil, without smearing. So, one of the reasons why artist quality wax pencils are popular amongst artists is because they are great for putting multiple layers. Wax-based coloured pencils aren’t very good at withstanding time, due to a natural oxidation process for the wax, which can cause the wax to rise to the surface of the artwork. However, to avoid this you can seal it with a fixator. And if you already have a piece like that, you can wipe the so-called wax bloom with a clean dry cloth and then apply more colour before fixating it.
While they use oil to bind the pigment, oil-based coloured pencils also contain wax. The oil makes for a different consistency, but it also protects the wax from oxidising. Oil-based pencils are very versatile. Most of them are medium-soft, while a little bit firmer than wax-based pencils. They give the artist more control and they are also quite smooth, and less likely to break.
The main downside to oil-based pencils is that they are prone to smearing, and it’s harder to erase them. They are also more expensive than wax-based pencils and offer fewer colour options. However, it’s hard to decide whether one is better than the other because it can be hard for most people to notice the difference, which is why often manufacturers don’t make the label for whether their pencils are wax or oil-based very noticeable. If you are a beginner, you can try both and decide which one you prefer. However, for best performance and best results, you should buy high-quality artist pencils.
Even though when you look at them, they seem quite indistinguishable from oil and wax-based colour pencils, watercolour pencils offer other interesting effects for your artworks, which can’t be achieved with other pencils. The main difference is that instead of using wax or oil as a binder for the pigments, these pencils use water-soluble gum, which makes them suitable not only for sketching, colouring or drawing but also for painting. This is why an artist quality watercolour pencil is in a way a regular watercolour enclosed in a pencil. It’s also why many artists use them in combination with watercolour paints.
Like any other type of professional art pencil, a watercolour pencil can be used dry, but because they are water-soluble, the pigments in the pencils react to water, which thins them out. This means that you can use them to create a watercolour painting by adding water with a brush or a sponge. However, these pencils offer other effects, which can’t be achieved with watercolour paint. You can use a dry pencil on wet paper, or you can dip the tip of the pencil in water.
While pastel pencils look like any other coloured pencil, they are different and they are used differently. If you use pastels to create your artworks, but you also want more control, pastel pencils can be the perfect medium for you. Instead of wax, oil or water and pigment, pastel pencils have a core made of pastel, but unlike some regular pastel colours, the pastel in these pencils is harder (but still soft) so that they don’t crumble and break, and they aren’t as messy as some other types of artist quality pastels, like soft pastels for instance.
Using pastels, you can create both artworks that resemble drawings and paintings. They provide rich and vibrant colours, and they can be used to achieve incredible effects. Because they can provide you control for details, pastel pencils for artists are great for sketching and drawing, and you can use them either in combination with other pastels or alone. Some artists don’t like them exactly because of the amount of control they offer, but because it may be quite a challenge for some people to control the power of traditional pastels – they are great for hobbyist artists, and for colouring.